First Mover Disadvantage

Elisavet Maniou
by Elisavet Maniou Growth Marketer @ GrowthMentor

Table of Contents

As an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition. 

But did you know that being the first to enter a new market or introduce a new product may not always give you an advantage? 

This is where First Mover Disadvantage comes into play. 

So, whether you’re thinking of entering a new market or just want to stay informed, keep reading!

What is First Mover Disadvantage and how does it affect businesses?

First Mover Disadvantage (FMD) is a business concept that refers to the potential challenges and drawbacks that a company may face when it’s the first to enter a new market or introduce a new product. FMD can be caused by several factors, such as high development costs, difficulty in educating the market about the new product, and difficulty adapting to changes in the market.

Understanding FMD is essential for businesses because it can impact their long-term success and profitability. By being aware of the risks associated with being a first mover, businesses can make informed decisions about whether to enter a new market or introduce a new product. 

By anticipating FMD, businesses can take steps to mitigate the risks and increase their chances of success. 

Factors that contribute to First Mover Disadvantage

Several factors can contribute to FMD, making it difficult for first movers to succeed in a new market or with a new product. 

  • High development expenses: A company’s resources may be severely taxed when it comes to research and development costs associated with being the first to enter a new market or introduce a new product.
  • Education of the market regarding the new good or service: First movers frequently have to invest a lot of time and money in educating the market regarding the advantages of their new good or service. This process, which might take a long time and money, needs to be well-planned and carried out.
  • Adapting to changing market conditions: The first mover may have to contend with rapidly changing market conditions, new technologies, and changing customer preferences, which can be challenging to adapt to if their resources are tied to a specific approach that may become outdated.
  • Difficulty of establishing a brand in a new and competitive environment: In a new market, the first mover may face intense competition from other players, making it challenging to establish a brand and stand out from the crowd.
  • Facing resistance from established players: Existing players in the market may resist the entry of a new player and use their resources to outcompete or undermine the first mover’s efforts.
  • Potential for regulation or legal challenges: Entering a new market or introducing a new product can be subject to regulations or legal challenges, which can be costly and time-consuming to navigate.

Advantages and disadvantages of being a first mover

Being the first to enter a new market or introduce a new product can come with both advantages and disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons to consider.


  • Higher profit margins: Companies that are first movers can charge premium prices for their products or services due to the lack of competition in the market.
  • Greater market share: Early entry into a new market can lead to higher market share and profits in the long run.
  • Control over industry standards: First movers can set the standard for their industry and shape consumer preferences.


  • High development costs: There is a considerable risk of failure when developing a new product or entering a new market.
  • Market education: Teaching the market about a product or service can be time- and money-consuming, but it is essential if you want to be the first to market.
  • Adapting to changing market conditions: First movers may have trouble adapting to quickly changing market conditions, especially if their resources are devoted to a particular strategy that can become outmoded.
  • Resistance from established businesses: It may be difficult for first movers to achieve market share if established players oppose the entry of new companies into the market.
  • Legal challenges: Entering a new market or introducing a new product can be subject to regulations or legal challenges, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Examples of companies that have experienced First Mover Disadvantage

There are multiple examples of businesses that have dealt with FMD. The most significant examples include:

  • Friendster: This social networking site launched in 2002, two years before Facebook.  Despite its early success, Friendster was eventually surpassed by Facebook because it could not keep up with the shifting needs of its users.
  • Kodak: Once a market leader in the photography sector, Kodak was a forerunner in the development of digital cameras but was slow to adopt the technology. When Kodak started making significant investments in digital photography, other businesses like Canon and Nikon had already established themselves as market leaders.
  • Blockbuster: Blockbuster had a big advantage over its rivals because it was the first chain of nationwide video rental stores. Blockbuster’s physical locations were eventually rendered obsolete by the growth of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which caused the company to file for bankruptcy in 2010.
  • MySpace: This social media platform formerly enjoyed greater popularity than Facebook. Nevertheless, it was unable to meet customer expectations for a better user experience and ultimately fell behind Facebook and other rivals.
  • AltaVista: This search engine was once the most popular on the internet, but it failed to adapt to changing search trends and eventually lost out to Google.

Mitigating or overcoming First Mover Disadvantage

Dealing with First Mover Disadvantage can be a tough challenge for any company. Nonetheless, there are various tactics that can assist in this issue being mitigated or overcome:

  • Partner with complementary companies: Businesses can increase their reach and clientele by forming alliances with other businesses that provide complementary goods or services. For instance, Apple‘s collaboration with Nike to develop the Nike+ app aided in its entry into the fitness industry.
  • Stay agile and flexible: Early adopters must be prepared to adjust to shifting market dynamics and consumer needs. Businesses that maintain flexibility and agility can react rapidly to new possibilities and challenges. To be competitive, Amazon, for instance, has continuously improved its business strategy.
  • Focus on innovation: Investing in research and development can help businesses stay ahead of the curve and continually offer new and innovative products or services. For example, Tesla‘s focus on innovation in electric vehicles and energy storage has helped it maintain a competitive edge in the automotive industry.
  • Build a strong brand: Establishing a strong brand can help businesses differentiate themselves from the competition and build customer loyalty. For example, Coca-Cola has maintained a strong brand image for over a century, despite facing stiff competition from other beverage companies.
  • Diversify revenue streams: First movers should avoid relying solely on one product or service and diversify their sources of income. Google, for example, has diversified its sources of income by providing a variety of goods and services, such as search, advertising, and cloud computing.

Final Thoughts

For any firm, FMD can be a formidable problem. Businesses can more successfully navigate this obstacle and improve their prospects of long-term success by knowing the dangers and advantages of being a first mover and putting certain tried-and-true techniques into action.

So, if you’re thinking of being the first mover, make sure you carefully analyze the pros and dangers and come up with a plan that works for you. Always advance cautiously and keep your eyes on the prize because being the first to act can be both a chance and a risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

First Mover Disadvantage is the phenomenon where the first company to enter a new market or introduce a new product may struggle to maintain its position due to various challenges.

Factors that contribute to First Mover Disadvantage include high development costs, educating the market, adapting to changing market conditions, difficulty establishing a brand, resistance from established players, and potential for regulation or legal challenges.

Advantages include the ability to establish a strong brand and gain market share. Disadvantages include high development costs, educating the market, and the potential for being surpassed by later entrants.

Businesses can evaluate the risks and opportunities by carefully considering the challenges and benefits, weighing the pros and cons, and developing a strategy that works for their specific circumstances.

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